Kolkata is known for its food, trams, heritage and leisurely way of life. But the City of Joy is famous for sarees as well. Old and new neighborhoods are thronged by shops, big and small, offering more varieties of the six yards than you could finish wearing in a year.
Besides indigenous handlooms, you will also find weaves from all over the country as well as innovative takes on the saree. If you’re in the city, here are six of our favorite stores to get you started.
Kolkata’s College Street is known for bookstores, but at the junction stands Adi Mohini Mohan Kanjilal, the iconic sari store, a go-to destination for women. Belonging to the Kanjilal family, the store is getting a modern makeover under managing director Swarnali Kanjilal. The brand’s signature collection mixes pop hues, checks, velvet, sequins, and other elements on traditional silks. The store is now online as well—buying Dhakai Jamdanis just got easier.
This government enterprise is a paradise for heady handlooms. The weaves of Bengal may be slowly giving way to modern and easier drapes, but Tantuja still celebrates traditional textiles and their weavers. At the stores, you will find taants as well as kantha and jamdani, but make sure you check out their dhanekhali, baluchari and shantipuri. Take the staff’s help to understand the nuances of the sarees and how to distinguish one from another.
Adi Dhakeswari Bastralaya
Gariahat’s roads are lined with shops offering superior sarees at prices so reasonable you might start weeping. Adi Dhakeswari Bastralaya is among the biggest, their five-storied store packed with women looking for their next wardrobe addition. We recommend digging into their amazing inventory of taant (Bengali handlooms) and traditional Benarasis (still the Bengali bride’s preferred saree). For those who can’t travel to Burrabazaar and College Street, this and other Gariahat stores will leave you equally spoilt for choice.
In recent decades, modern saree stores have made an effort to give traditional sarees a contemporary spin. Housed in a colonial building at Hindustan Road, Kanishka’s is among the most popular. Dilip & Nandita Raja’s brand is renowned for their block printing, handmade by artisans on traditional cotton and silk handlooms. You can also have your own drapes printed at the store for a customized experience. The brand now also boasts a Western wear, christened Kora.
Want kitschy prints on your saree? Byloom has you covered. Since it opened in 2011, this boutique’s emphasis on contemporary weaves and quirky sensibilities have got many hooked. Their aim is to design sarees that women would love to wear just as much as their favorite pair of denims. You will love the subtle shibori patterns, diaphanous jamdanis, cool and unusual tassel details and uber-cool Calcutta-inspired prints on offer at the Gariahat and Salt Lake outlets.
Founded by Joydeep Roy and Tanuka Sarkar in 2013, the brand’s signature handwoven weaves have loyal followers beyond Kolkata. At their EM Bypass store, you will find a range of weaves perfect for sultry summers. At first glance, these may look like regular sarees, but look closely and you’ll spot bold motifs and eccentric design elements. Starting with jamdanis, the brand has moved on to Benarasis, Chanderis and linens.
In Kolkata, the old and new coexist in every part of the city—it extends to the clothing too. Little wonder that old-school favorites in the older parts of the city are as popular as contemporary labels. For saree lovers, the entire city is filled with gorgeous surprises.
Do you know about a must-visit saree shop in Kolkata? Tell us in the comments.